Friday evening, after dinner with my friend Msgr. Mueggenborg, who works at the Pontifical North American College here in Rome, I had some time to kill before meeting up with Fr. Roderick.
I made my way back over to St. Peter’s Square and enjoyed some quiet time strolling on the piazza. A large video screen at the entrance to the square has been displaying commemorative videos about Pope John Paul II’s pontificate and they were still showing although it was now almost 10 pm.
It’s a mesmerizing video, projected without sound, which recounts JPII’s important history of traveling the world. Although I had seen parts of the video earlier, this night it drew me in and I was captivated by the memories that it brought back.
Slowly, as the video played, more and more people in the piazza were also drawn in and a crowd gathered in complete silence, a vigil of remembrance for Pope John Paul II.
As each year of his pontificate passed in turn, we saw the joy of the people he visited and remembered the messages that he delivered in all parts of the world. In a short time, we also saw him age and the heartbreaking advance of his illness and infirmities.
The video ends with his death and funeral. With a few tears and a collective sigh from our little group gathered in vigil, a quiet applause came as the crowd dispersed, deep in thought.
This was one of those unplanned moments, a shared experience among strangers. But also one that those present will not soon forget.